The Apple Of God's Eye

March 2, 2010

The Meaning Of God's Tabernacle For Christ's Church Today

possessthevision.wordpress.coThe theme of God's tabernacle runs through the Bible like a continuous stream. The tabernacle, and its expanded form as the Temple, stands in the center of God's plan.

Anciently, God was very detailed in how He should be worshiped by ancient Israel, giving instructions for His tabernacle (Exod. 25-27 and 30). It sat in a courtyard (100 cubits long  x 50 cubits wide) enclosed by curtains (Exod. 27:9), with a gate 20 cubits wide at the front.

The courtyard contained an altar of 5 cubits x 5 cubits (Exod. 27:1-8), a laver (bronze basin where priests washed their hands and feet – Exod. 30:18-19).

It also contained a central tent (30 cubits long), which was divided into two sections by a veil, with the front section being the “holy place”(Exod. 26:33), and the section behind the veil called the most holy place, or the holiest of all (Heb. 9:3).

The most holy place represented God’s throne room in heaven. The ark of the covenant, with the wings of the cherubim spread overhead, was in this section (Exod. 25:10-22, 26:33-34).  Inside the ark were the tables of stone on which God had written the Ten Commandments. The lid of the ark, which was called the mercy seat, was where the Eternal – the One who later became Jesus Christ – manifested Himself.

Around the tabernacle was a section curtained off from the rest of the Israelite camp. No uncircumcised person was allowed to enter. The circumcised Israelites could enter and offer their sacrifices on the altar provided they were not ceremonially or spiritually unclean. (more…)

November 23, 2009

Jesus Christ: Once Divorced, Yet Twice Married?

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Strange as it may seem, Jesus Christ already had a wife! In Exodus 19 and 24, the LORD of the Old Testament, Jesus Christ Himself (I Cor. 10:4) made a covenant with ancient Israel at Mount Sinai. This covenant was a marriage agreement. Notice Jeremiah 3:14: here the LORD (Christ) commands His wife, “Turn, O backsliding children … for I am married unto you.”

But ancient Israel did not carry out her part of the marriage covenant. She was an unfaithful wife (Ezek. 16). God had made His righteous Law a part of that covenant. But because of sin, which is the transgression of that Law, God had to separate Himself from His wife (Isa. 50:1; 59:1-2). “And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce” (Jer. 3:8).

Though He put her away, the marriage covenant Christ anciently made with Israel was binding until death. Neither party was free to marry another (Matt. 19:3-9). However, Christ’s death on the stake freed Him from that marriage (Rom. 7:1-4).

Human marriages fail as a result of broken laws. Breaking laws again by allowing divorce and remarriage, contrary to God’s law, would only create more misery. To fully understand that God hates divorce, we have to prove and understand from the Bible that human marriage is a type of the coming future marriage to Jesus Christ. Look at what God says in Mat. 19:8:

“He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so,” (Matt. 19:8)

He warns us to be very cautious in our thoughts and dealings with divorce, which is never an acceptable choice to God, not even for reason of adultery, addiction, spiritism, criminal or immoral conduct.

God’s Laws on Divorce Simplified

The laws of God concerning marriage and divorce are really quite simple. Jesus Christ explained them so that even a little child could understand them. “And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matt. 19:4-6).

Here Jesus Christ cut through a lot of chaff and human reasoning. He showed that man was created for marriage and what God had joined together should not be “put asunder.” Some people in Christ’s day did not like His answer. Men still don’t like this answer. But this law is the foundation of the marriage institution and it is the basis of family life. As Mr. Armstrong stated, this “is the Divine law on which the stability—or the fate of a nation rests!” (Ibid).

The intellectuals and lawyers of Christ’s time quizzed Christ a little further on this issue. Remember, they didn’t like His answer. “They said unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery. His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry” (Matt. 19:7-10).

This was a stinging answer from Christ. He said that Moses allowed them divorce because of the hardness of their carnal hearts. In other words, ancient Israel could not understand the spiritual dimension to God’s purpose for marriage or live by the spiritual laws concerning marriage. Jesus Christ was essentially putting God’s truth about marriage and divorce “back-on-track.”

Christ was very clear here that God never intended to allow divorce—“from the beginning it was not so!” Christ also stated that to separate what God had joined together and remarry another is committing adultery.

In these verses, Christ allowed an exception to God’s rule—“except it be for fornication.” Simple enough, right? No, we also need to know what the word “fornication” means.

The Porneia Controversy

What exactly does the word “fornication,” as used by Christ in Matt. 19 mean? This word in the Greek language is porneia. It does not mean adultery in marriage, nor does it give adultery as a reason for allowing a divorce. Granted, the Greek porneia has more than one meaning. So does the English word, “saw.” It may mean “did see,” or it may mean an instrument with jagged teeth for cutting through wood. We determine by its use in the sentence, in the context of that sentence, which meaning of the word applies. So it is in the case in which Jesus used the Greek word porneia. The translators of the King James Bible in 1611 knew that Jesus intended the definition “fornication” as an act prior to marriage.

Consider what Jesus said in Matthew 5:32, “But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.”

Consider that! If in this case porneia should have been translated “adultery” instead of premarital fornication, then, in the English look how absurd would be Jesus’ statement. He would have said, whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of adultery, causeth her to commit adultery. In other words, he divorced her for the sin of adultery, and causes her to commit again the same act for which he divorced her. That would not make sense!

Further, same sentence (verse 32): “whosoever shall marry her” (that is put away for adultery) “committeth adultery.” He who would marry this particular divorced woman would be committing adultery only because she is still the wife of the man who divorced her! To say that Jesus gave adultery as grounds for divorce introduces confusion, and misrepresents what Jesus said to be ridiculous!

The simple fact is that the word “porneia” does describe premarital sexual relations—a capital sin. Jesus Christ used porneia to describe illicit sexual relations prior to marriage—only! He was not describing illicit sexual conduct after marriage.

Marriage not binding in case of premarital adultery

The only way that a man marrying a divorced woman commits adultery is if the woman is still the bound wife of the man who divorced her. But when Jesus gave the only grounds as premarital fornication, that can mean only that the marriage was not binding—God never bound that marriage in the first place. The woman had committed fornication prior to the marriage, had not told the man, and therefore he was defrauded—the marriage was never binding! Why? Because God knew, but the man did not. God never bound that marriage. The man was unknowingly defrauded. If she had told him, and he forgave her anyway, then the marriage would have been bound by God. In that case if he divorced her he did not do so legally in God’s sight, and he caused her, by marrying another, to commit adultery.

In both Matthew 5 and Matthew 19, both the translated English words ‘fornication” and “adultery” are mentioned. In the original Greek the word translated “fornication” was porneia, and a different Greek word was used for adultery, moicheia. If Jesus had meant “adultery” to be the only grounds for divorce and remarriage, he would have used the word moicheia instead of porneia. The very fact He did use the Greek porneia in the same sentence with moicheia shows definitely He did not intend porneia to mean adultery—unfaithfulness after marriage.

So, porneia does not mean adultery. Even God and Jesus Christ show us through the Bible that an adulterous act is not grounds for divorce.  “They say, If a man put away his wife, and she go from him, and become another man’s, shall he return unto her again? shall not that land be greatly polluted? but thou hast played the harlot with many lovers; yet return again to me, saith the LORD” (Jer. 3:1). Ancient Israel played the harlot with God, and God actually encouraged Israel to return unto him.

A liberal ministry often fails to address two other scriptures related to the laws governing marriage and divorce. Paul wrote to the Romans, “Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man” (Rom. 7:1-3). Paul shows here very clearly that only death can sever a marriage bound by God. In essence, if a man and a woman married and could live forever, then their marriage would be forever! Our marriage with Christ will be forever. Christ already is spirit. We will become spirit at the first resurrection. Because we will live eternally, our marriage will be eternal. Our human marriages must picture our marriage to Christ in faithfulness.

Paul also taught, “And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife” (I Cor. 7:10-11). Paul explains here that if married people divorce, they must either reconcile with their mate or remain single.

Only two reasons for divorce

First, Jesus gave fornication (prior to marriage) as the grounds for nullifying a marriage. This clearly was a form of fraud. When discovered (in nearly all cases) immediately after marriage, it simply meant God, knowing of this fraud, had actually not bound the marriage—and what followed therefore was actually an annulment, not a divorce.

However this did not apply in cases of marriages by unconverted people. God never bound them anyway—they were bound by man’s law, and any divorce and/or remarriage would be according to man’s civil law. But the church would not apply this annulment if the couple had continued living together for a period of time. There could be other types of fraud—such as marriage enforced at the point of a gun.

The second cause for divorce is based on 1 Corinthians 7. Paul there speaks, verses 8-9, to the unmarried and widows. In verses 10-11 he speaks to the married. Beginning verse 12 he speaks to “the rest.” If a converted man has a wife…if she be pleased to live with him, he must not divorce her—he has no grounds for divorce and remarriage.

Likewise the woman in God’s Church, if she has an unbelieving husband, and he is willing to live with her despite her religion, she shall not leave him (verse 13).

But if the unbelieving one leaves—cuts off the marriage because of the Church member’s religion—let him or her depart. Now notice this! The believing Church member is not given grounds for breaking off the marriage. It is only IF the unbelieving one leaves—severs the marriage relationship—then and only then is the believer (Church member) no longer bound and free to obtain a divorce (verse 15).

This could occur in at least two ways. 1) The believing Church member has been newly converted, and the mate refuses to live with him or her because of the religion. 2) Both had been in the Church, but one falls away, turns bitter against the Church, refuses to live as husband or wife with the still loyal member. In this case the embittered one, leaving the Church, has become an unbeliever.

We must take special note of several facts:

“Fornication” or premarital sex is grounds for annulment, not divorce. With this understanding the only cases for allowable divorce and remarriage within God’s Church are: the case of an unconverted mate departing the marriage over religion; or the case of a member becoming an unbeliever and then departing the marriage. The converted mate is then free to remarry, but only within God’s Church. Why? See II Cor. 6:14:

“Do not keep company with those who have not faith: for what is there in common between righteousness and evil, or between light and dark?”

Believers should not marry unbelievers, as this scripture shows. it creates confusion and disharmony.

We must remember that God hates “putting away.” If a Christian is already married to an unbelieving mate who is please to dwell with him, it would be a grave sin for a that member to manipulate an unconcerted mate to leave a marriage. Living with an unconcerted mate can be difficult at times, even if that mate is kind and supportive. But that is not a valid reason for “pushing” that mate out of a marriage.

Again, we must look at marriage to an unconverted mate from God’s perspective:

Now Paul gives an important reason for the converted mate continuing in the marriage, IF the unbelieving one is willing. Notice I Corinthians 7:14: “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now they are holy.”

To thoroughly understand this we need to go clear back to Adam and Eve. When God drove them out of the Garden of Eden, and with sword-flaming angels barred anyone from going back in—or having access to the tree of life (the Holy Spirit)—God said, in effect:

“You have made your decision. You have rebelled against me, denied me as your God, your Revealer of knowledge, your Ruler. Therefore I sentence you and the World that shall be born from you to 6,000 years of being CUT OFF from me—except for the VERY FEW I shall specially call into my service to prepare for the Kingdom of God.”

Jesus confirmed this when He said, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him” (John 6:44).

Now the nation of ancient Israel was specially called by God the Father for a special purpose—even though they were still cut off from receiving the Holy Spirit.

But the unconverted mate is put in a special category—not called necessarily to receiving the Holy Spirit or spiritual conversion—but simply NOT CUT OFF from God. They are free to seek God, if they will, and to become converted. They are placed in a special category, neither converted, or CALLED for God’s special duty in conversion—but, on the other hand, NOT actually CUTOFF—not in the category Jesus spoke of, saying no such unbeliever CAN come to Jesus, except by special call to salvation by God the Father. They are free to seek God and to seek conversion IF THEY WILL—not CUT OFF!…

If the husband or wife who is IN the Church divorces the unbelieving nonmember who is willing to continue the marriage, that Church member puts the unconcerted mate in the CUTOFF category—whereas such nonmember mate might have been saved for eternal life in God’s Kingdom.

We must never forget that the only way to fully understand the Bible on the issue of divorce and remarriage is by seeking God’s will.

Christ will soon marry again. Only this time He will marry a repentant, forgiven, sinless “spiritual Israel.” This is the New Testament Church soon to enter the Kingdom of God. Read Revelation 19:7: “The marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready.”

Sources:

  1. Why Marriage! Soon Obsolete? by Herbert W Armstrong
  2. WCG Pastor General’s Report, 1980, Herbert W Armstrong

March 28, 2009

Pagan Holidays Or God’s Holy Days – Which?

Editors Note: This article is the introduction to the above mentioned booklet. I will keep sections short, for brevity, and include other parts of the booklet in different articles and subjects.

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From The Booklet: Pagan Holidays or God’s Holy Days— Which?
by Herbert W. Armstrong

Does it make any difference which days we observe or whether we keep them? Does the Bible establish whether we are to keep certain days holy to God? Were these days given to ancient Israel only? Are they binding today only on the Jewish people, while Christians are commanded to keep holidays such as Christmas?

In the seventh chapter of the book of Daniel is an amazing prophecy picturing, for twenty-five hundred years into future, from the day it was written, the course of the Gentile kingdoms. Starting with the ancient Chaldean Empire of Nebuchadnezzar, this prophecy foretells the successive world rule of the Persian Empire, Alexander’s Greco-Macedonian kingdom with its four divisions, and finally, of the mighty Roman Empire.

Out of the original Roman Empire, symbolized by “horns” growing out of the head of a “beast,” are pictured the ten resurrections of the Roman Empire that have continued since its fall to the present, and are scheduled to continue until the coming of Christ.

Among these ten kingdoms, which have ruled in the Western world since the fall of Rome to the present, appeared another “little horn,” whose “look was more stout than fellows.” In other words, another government, actually smaller, yet dominating over all the others. Students of prophecy recognize this “little horn” as a great religious hierarchy. And in the 25th verse of this prophecy, it is stated that this hierarchy shall “think to change times and laws.”

How Time Was Changed

This same power is mentioned again in the 17th chapter of Revelation, here pictured as ruling over the kings and kingdoms of the earth, persecuting the true saints.

In every possible manner, this power has changed TIME.

  1. God begins the days at sunset, but “the little horn” has changed it so the world now begins the day in the middle of the night by a man-made watch.
  2. God begins the week with the ending of the true Sabbath, the seventh day of the week, but the world begins the working week in the middle of the night, the second day of the week.
  3. God begins the months with the new moons, but this “little horn” has induced the world to begin the months according to a clumsy man-made calendar of heathen origin.
  4. God begins the year in the early spring, when new life is budding in nature everywhere, but ancient heathen Rome caused the world to begin the year in the middle of dead winter.
  5. God gave His children a true rest day, designed to keep them continually in the knowledge and true worship of the true God, a memorial of God’s Creation, the seventh day of the week. But the “little horn” has fastened upon a deluded world the observance of the days on which the pagans worshipped the Sun, the first day of the week, called SUNday.

Pagan Origins

Ancient Rome’s pagan holidays have been chained upon a heedless and deceived world. These include certain annual holidays Christmas, New Year’s, Easter, as well as many more, every one a pagan day, every one used to stimulate the sale of merchandise in the commercial markets. Upon honest investigation, the earnest seeker-after-truth learns that these days are all of heathen origin and pagan significance. He learns that he can have no part in them.

But is the Christian of today left without any annual holy days? Did God never give to His people annual holy days, as well as the weekly Sabbath? Are not ancient Rome’s annual holidays mere counterfeits of God’s true holy days, exactly as Sunday is a counterfeit of the true Sabbath?

Banishing Prejudice

We are told to study, not argue, not to refute, but to show ourselves approved unto God to learn God’s will. We are commanded, as Christians, to grow in knowledge as well as in grace (II Peter 3:18). All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable to correct and to reprove us, where we have, through assumption, false teaching, or prejudice, been in error.

Most people have supposed that all the annual Sabbaths and feast days of Israel were done away. And yet Church history shows that the early true Church did, for more than four hundred long years at least, perhaps much longer after Christ’s resurrection, continued to keep and observe these annual holy days given by God!

And just as the Sunday observer is inclined to look, at first, upon any argument for the weekly Sabbath with prejudice, as a heresy, and to examine every argument only in an attitude of attempting to refute it— so it will be only human, only natural for us, if we are not on our guard against it, to look upon any presentation of these annual Sabbaths in the same spirit of prejudice. But remember that, “he that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him” (Proverbs 18:13).

Study This Twice

Certain objections will be sure to come to the mind all of which, will be dealt with and explained later on. But unless the reader is careful to guard against it, the mere presence of this objection in his mind will, to him, overthrow each point as it’s presented— and then, when the objections are later explained, the points made will not come back to the mind, unless the whole exposition of the subject is carefully studied again from the first.

And in each case, the objection will be one of the very arguments used by Sunday preachers in attempting to overthrow the truth of the weekly Sabbath! For the weekly Sabbath and the annual Sabbaths stand or fall together. The arguments used against the annual Sabbaths will be the identical arguments used to overthrow the Sabbath and if these arguments could hold, then they would abolish the weekly Sabbath!

Such arguments as “the annual Sabbaths are part of the law of Moses,” or “they offered sacrifices on the annual Sabbaths,” or “Colossians 2:16 does away with the annual Sabbaths,” are not scriptural.

For the annual Sabbaths were not part of the law of Moses, but were observed before the ritualistic ordinances contained in the law of Moses were given. Sacrifices were offered on the weekly Sabbath, but this does not do away with the Sabbath. In fact, sacrifices were offered on every day of the year (Numbers 28:3).

Colossians 2:16 refers, not alone to the annual Sabbaths, but to the annual days, the monthly new moons, and the weekly Sabbath. Whenever the Bible uses the expression “Sabbath days,” with new moons and holy days, it is referring to the weekly Sabbath days, the new moons and the annual holy days or feast days. The “Sabbath days” of Colossians 2:16 refers to the weekly Sabbath. Compare I Chronicles 23:31 with II Chronicles 2:4; 31:3; Ezra 3:5; Nehemiah 10:33; Ezekiel 46:3. If Colossians does away with the one, it also abolishes the other.

The Old Testament Church

When did the true Church begin? In Acts 7:38 we learn that the congregation of Israel was called the church in the wilderness, in the days of Moses. The English word “congregation” used throughout the Old Testament is only another rendering, having the same identical meaning, as the word “church” in the New Testament. The word translated “congregation” in the Old Testament is ekklesia in the Septuagint the same identical Greek word that is always translated CHURCH in the New Testament.

Israel was both church and state. As a kingdom, it was for years ruled by a system of judges, over 50s, 100s, thousands, etc., later having a king. But as a congregation, or church, Israel was organized with a leader Moses, Joshua, etc. and the priests of the tribe of Levi. The law of Moses contained those ritualistic or ceremonial laws which were ADDED, because of transgressions, to the Old Covenant— added until Christ— to teach and instill into them the habit of obedience. These consisted of meat and drink offerings, various washings, and physical ordinances. Also they had the sacrifices, as a substitute for the sacrifice of Christ.

Prior to the Law of Moses

In the 12th chapter of Exodus, while the Children of Israel were still in Egypt, long before any of the Law of Moses had been given, prior to the time when God revealed to Moses and the Israelites He would make the Old Covenant with them, we find God’s annual holy days being observed. And in the 23rd chapter of Leviticus we find a summary of these annual holy days or set feasts.

Now when God made the Sabbath for man, He gave man a rest day carrying great significance and purpose. To His Church in the wilderness, God said that the Sabbath was a covenant sign between Him and His people. A sign is a supernatural proof of identity. It is the sign by which we know that He is God. How does it prove that to us? “For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested.” It is a memorial of creation.

And creation is the proof of the existence of God. Creation identifies God. The Sabbath is a weekly memorial of creation. A weekly reminder of God’s power to create. Therefore it identifies God to us, keeps us in the true memory and true worship of the true God. No other day, but the seventh day of the week, could have that great significance and meaning. It was designed to keep us in the true worship of God.

The Purpose of Holy Days

Now in like manner, when God gave His Church seven annual Sabbaths, God, in His wisdom, had a great purpose. These days, too, were given to keep God’s children in the true memory and worship of God, by keeping us constantly in the understanding of God’s great plan of redemption. For these annual days picture the different epochs in the plan of spiritual creation, mark the dispensations, and picture their meaning.

The whole story of spiritual regeneration was, in these feast days, to be reenacted year after year continually. They have vitally important symbolism and meaning.

It is an historic fact that any nation which ever profaned God’s holy Sabbath (weekly), has lost contact with and knowledge of the true God, and gone into idolatry. The only nation which ever did keep God’s Sabbath is the only one that was kept in the true memory and worship of the true God— and only when they kept the Sabbath. When ancient Israel began to profane God’s Sabbath, they began to worship idols!

And in the same way, when in these New Testament times we have failed to observe God’s annual Sabbaths we, as a nation and people, are without knowledge of God’s true plan of reproducing Himself.

The so-called Christian churches today do not understand or teach what sin is— they do not teach that sin must be put away— they do not understand what man is, the purpose of life, the meaning of being born again, and of the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit— they do not understand that God’s Church, today, is not to convert the world, but to proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom as a witness— to live a life of overcoming sin, enduring unto the end, and that the over-comers shall reign with Christ, being kings, and priests, in His Kingdom.

They do not understand that Christ is coming again, and those who preach the second coming fail to understand its meaning and purpose. They have no knowledge or conception of the good news of the coming Kingdom of God— the only true New Testament Bible gospel.

Not understanding these vital steps in the true plan of regeneration, the Christian churches teach that the Law is abolished. They teach the pagan doctrine of the immortality of the soul, going immediately to heaven or hell at death and they teach that death is only life.

And all is confusion!

God’s feasts, or holy days, or Sabbaths, were commanded to be kept year after year, and forever! Thus God purposed to impress the truths these “high” Sabbaths picture upon all the minds of His children through all time, keeping His Church in the true understanding of His plan!

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